East Coast Chair and Barstool Blog

4 Up and Coming Food Cities of 2019

Once upon a time, the established wisdom declared that great food in this country was the domain of New York City. Of course, this was never actually true. There was and is great food across the nation, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.

Still, sometimes a surge occurs in a particular city that makes the rest of us sit up and take notice. A place that was never known for its food is suddenly attracting attention from critics and foodies alike.

This seems to be happening more and more these days. Creative young chefs with dreams of starting their own restaurant are flocking to smaller cities where rents are reasonable and competition is less fierce.

A newly vibrant restaurant scene often accompanies a town’s revitalization. Old warehouse spaces in a defunct downtown become hip new eateries, attracting more shops, residents, and eventually, public transit.

So it’s always exciting when a new (to us) food hotspot makes waves. Here are four up-and-coming food cities that we think you’ll want to visit!

Sacramento

When the land surrounding your city grows 40% of the country’s fruit and a third of its produce, the phrase “farm-to-table” takes on a whole new meaning.

California’s Central Valley provides produce for restaurants across the nation. But Sacramento’s proximity means those carrots weren’t picked two weeks ago — they were picked two days ago.

Long overshadowed by Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the southwest, Sacramento is becoming a food destination of its own. The city provides a respite from the outrageous pricing in San Francisco — one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

More affordable restaurant space for chefs equals more affordable menu prices for patrons.

One of the hallmarks of a burgeoning food scene seems to be at least one upscale food hall. And wouldn’t you know, Sacramento got their very own in November 2018. The Bank, located in a 100-year-old bank building, currently has four operating restaurants, with more to come.

Where to Eat in Sacramento

So many delicious options. Try Beast and Bounty. The “Beast” section of the menu provides a range of meat and seafood dishes, while the “Bounty” section focuses on imaginative vegetarian options.

If you like to let the chef take the lead, try The Kitchen. This award-winning restaurant only has one option — their seasonal five-course prix fixe menu. Past courses have included morel and crème fraiche tortelloni and rose beef loin poached in truffle butter.

Tampa

Across the country, the good people of Tampa, Florida are experiencing a food revolution of their own.

After an economic decline in the 70s and 80s, the city is undergoing a revitalization. Upgrades to the Tampa Riverwalk, new downtown mixed-use development, and museum improvements are all part of the area’s resurgence.

Native Floridians will tell you that there has always had a strong food culture here, thanks in part to the culinary traditions brought by Cuban, German, Italian, and Spanish immigrants.

But that has all become more visible lately. A few recent James Beard nominations and the renewal of neighborhoods like Seminole Heights has put Tampa on the food map.

A walkable neighborhood of historic homes, Seminole Heights has become a mecca for vintage shops, craft cocktails, and tasty eats. Local favorite Rooster & the Till serves upscale creative small plates. A few minutes away, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe keeps the area funky with comfort food, eclectic art, and local live music.

Ybor City is another foodie destination. Just north of Downtown Tampa, this neighborhood is like a love letter to the history, art, and food of the region. Visit in April to experience Ybor Aficionado Days — a walking tour through Ybor’s “tapas trail” with bites at every stop.

Where to Eat in Tampa

Tampa is home to not one, but two new food halls. First to open was the Hall on Franklin. It has a seafood and raw bar, poke, dessert, coffee, and cocktails.

Newer on the scene is Heights Public Market with contemporary ramen, modern Cuban, sushi, pizza, specialty sandwiches, and more. It’s all inside the Armature Works Building — the former storage facility for Tampa’s streetcars.

Indianapolis

Outside of Chicago, the midwest doesn’t get a lot of love from the culinary set. And that’s a real shame, because cities like St. Louis, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Madison, Wisconsin all have some amazing restaurants.

But today, we’re going to talk about Indianapolis. Once you get away from the mega-sports complexes downtown, you’ll find international flavors, new American cuisine, and cocktails from traditional to tiki.

The International Marketplace is a haven of tastes from around the world. You’ll find food from countries as varied as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Guinea, Japan, China, India, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico — too many to list. There are 80 different ethnic restaurants here!

Not far away is the Broad Ripple neighborhood, one of Indianapolis’ seven cultural districts. The area features unique spots like Locally Grown Gardens. Part restaurant, part farmer’s market, the stars of the show are the hog roast and sugar cream pie.  

To learn a little while you’re there, visit Chef JJ’s Back Yard. They offer classes ranging from pizza to seafood to kamado-style steak to smoking in a Big Green Egg.

And of course, there is a food hall taking over a once-defunct historical property. The Garage Food Hall in the Bottleworks District is coming to Indianapolis’ old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Expected to open in spring 2020, the area will hold more than 25 food and drink concepts.

Where to Eat in Indianapolis

Located in a renovated 1924 factory warehouse, James Beard semifinalist Bluebeard regularly tops the local “best of” lists. Menu items range from small plates of modern oysters Rockefeller to full-sized ribeyes and pork chops.

For a more laid-back meal, try Tinker Street near downtown. Korean chicken & waffles, summer rolls filled with poached shrimp and mango, and pad thai with squash noodles are all on the eclectic menu. They even serve “corn dogs” — but foie gras bratwurst and pepper jelly make them decidedly grown-up.

Las Vegas

To those of us who have only visited the City of Lights for the strip, it could be surprising to consider it a dining destination. While there is good food at the casinos, it doesn’t have the reputation of being terribly imaginative.

But an interesting thing happened when big name chefs started bringing their concepts to the area in the 1990s and 2000s.

Once their restaurants were established, the celebrity chefs went back to their homes in fashionable New York or LA. But someone had to run the kitchens in their absence. So they hired great young talent.

And when it came time for those young chefs to make their next move, some found the low cost of living and great weather enough reason to stay in Vegas.

The result is an exciting food scene to supplement some of the great food that was already here, hidden in plain site.

The hip Arts District has experienced a rebirth, full of galleries, antique shops, condos, and of course, restaurants.

Executive Chef James Trees of Esther’s Kitchen cut his teeth at the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace before opening Esther’s in 2016. It’s now a local favorite serving “Italian soul food” like bucatini carbonara and brunch pizza with quail eggs and bacon.

In Spring Mountain, a less trendy part of town, a huge commercial Chinatown has sprung up. There are an estimated 150 restaurants here!

In fact, “Chinatown” is a bit of a misnomer — cuisine ranges from regional Chinese to sushi, udon, ramen, pho, Thai, and more. It’s a cultural melting pot with a massive following from the locals. Popular joints can have lines day and night.

Where to Eat in Las Vegas

Forte Tapas looks unassuming at first glance. Located in a strip mall, it may not be where you’d expect to find Bulgarian tapas or cocktails like a Smoked Vanilla Chai Old Fashioned. But they’re celebrating their 10-year anniversary, so clearly they’re doing something right.

Back in Chinatown, visit Lamaii for outstanding Thai food in an upscale setting. They have all the standards like Pad Thai and Pad See Aew. But try the Mun Pu Fried Rice — rice cooked in crab fat with lump crab meat.

So many delicious places to eat, and so little time to get to them all!

What do you think of our list? Are there any up-and-coming food cities that you’re excited about? Let us know below!

What is the Cost of Shipping for Restaurant Furniture?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

We live in a world where we’ve become accustomed to free or cheap shipping: free two-day shipping on that new laptop that you bought from Amazon Prime, or a flat $5.99 shipping on that silver charm bracelet that you got your wife for mother’s day. Those items ship via small package carriers like the US Postal Service, UPS Ground, or FedEx. They’re limited in size, weighing only a couple of pounds on average, and arrive at your front door in days.

Not all goods are as easy, or as cheap, to ship, however. Take restaurant furniture, for example. It’s big, bulky, heavy, and often ordered in multiple pieces (think 40 chairs, 10 bar stools, and 10 tables). For that reason, furniture is put on pallets and ships via a different method called less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. LTL carriers take large palletized freight, and deliver it to your business on large semi-trucks.

There are many factors that determine the cost of shipping restaurant furniture via LTL carrier, some are obvious, and others, while not immediately apparent, make sense when you think about them. Here is a short list of the most important variables in the shipping calculation, along with a brief explanation.

Distance Between Shipper & Customer

The distance between the shipper and the customer (receiver) is one of the more obvious factors in the cost of shipping; we naturally expect that shipping from Boston to California will be more expensive than, say, shipping from Pennsylvania to Ohio. More distance means higher fuel costs and more driver time (wages). In addition, long trips often require a team of drivers that can alternate driving time in order to get the shipment to its destination in a timely manner.

Location

Shippers have what are called “good lanes” and “bad lanes”. A good lane is one that sees a lot of daily freight traffic, so the carrier knows that if they send a truck to that location, the odds are good that they will be able to fill the truck on the return trip. A bad lane is one in which there isn’t a lot of freight coming out, which means that the carrier may have to return empty, or only partially full. If a carrier can’t fill the truck, then they are making less money, or even losing money, on that trip. If a lane is bad for a carrier, then they will often charge more per piece to compensate themselves for the fact that they may not be able to fill the truck on the return. One prime example of a “bad lane” is Florida. There is a lot of freight going in to Florida, but not much coming out (for various reasons), so carriers will often charge a premium to deliver there.

Destination Type (Residential, Commercial, or Limited Access)

Customers often ask why it costs more to send a shipment to their home than it does to send the same shipment to their business. There are actually many reasons, but we’ll just list a few. First, businesses tend to be located in areas where large trucks can easily get in and out (if not, then they’re called limited access locations and are subject to the same fees as residential locations). Residential streets, on the other hand, are often too narrow for large semis to maneuver, so carriers have to send in a smaller truck, which means more handling of your freight. Second, businesses generally have somebody (or multiple people) and equipment on hand during business hours to unload the truck quickly and efficiently. Carriers know that they can just show up, open their doors, and the employees of the business will take care of the rest. With residential delivery, carriers have to call ahead to coordinate delivery, work around the homeowner’s schedule, and wait there until they unload the truck – often by hand.

Size of the Shipment

To simplify this point, let’s say you’re an LTL carrier that delivers from New York City to Orlando, FL. You know that to cover your costs and make a profit, you need to charge $3000 per truck for the trip. Now, a customer comes along and wants to ship 100 barstools to Orlando, which will take up about ⅓ of the truck. How much do you need to charge them? Of course, $1000! Now this is an over-simplification of the complex algorithms that carriers use to determine freight rates, but it does illustrate the point that the more of the truck you take up with your shipment, the more you pay.

Weight of the Shipment

You might be tempted to think that weight is the biggest factor in determining your freight costs, but that would be wrong. Weight does play a role, but it’s a smaller role than other variables. For example, according to one freight carrier website, you can ship a 48” x 48” x 60” pallet that weighs 200 pounds from Mercer, PA to Beverly Hills, CA (thank you Beverly Hills 90210 for being perpetually stuck in my brain and giving me a test zip code for life) for around $300. If we double the weight to 400 pounds, the rate only goes up around $50. Triple the weight, and you only increase another $20. How is this possible? Freight shippers use something called freight class, which is based on the density of your shipment: large, light materials have a high freight class, while smaller, denser materials have a lower freight class. As we raise the weight of the shipment, our density calculations go up, and our freight class goes down, which means that our overall rate only goes up a little bit for each additional pound that we ship.

Additional Services (Accessorials)

Accessorials are small additional services carriers provide that add up in a big way. Need a phone call before delivery? That’ll be up to $25, please. Want a lift gate to lower your pallets to the ground? They can range between $50 up to $200 depending on the carrier. Want the driver to bring your freight into the building? Don’t even ask! The point is that accessorial charges can be expensive, and should be avoided when possible.

As you’ve probably noticed, LTL freight is different from small package shipping in many ways. It can sound expensive at first, but there are two important things to remember.

  1. If you put 20 chairs on a pallet and it costs $200 to ship them, then that is only $10 per chair. If you were to ship the same number of chairs individually via small package delivery, the cost would be much higher.
  2. Truly free shipping is pretty much non-existent. You are almost always paying the freight, even if it doesn’t seem like it. It might come in the form of higher prices or reduced service levels, but shipping is always part of the cost of ordering restaurant furniture.

We hope this guide shed some light on the often confusing world of LTL freight and the true cost of shipping restaurant furniture.

If you have any additional questions, our shipping department is always happy to help. Just give us a call 800-986-5352.


The Buzz on Cold Brew Coffee in Restaurants

Want to shake up your beverage offerings and appeal to customers in the warmer months? Cold brew coffee is a great way to do that!

You surely have seen the distinguishing characteristics of cold brew coffee on social media or at the coffee shop you frequent. The coffee has a unique appearance with its amalgamation of dark and light liquids suspended in a clear cup just before it’s stirred. It’s beautiful, it’s artistic, and it’s also heavily-caffeinated- a total winning combination in the Insta-driven world of coffee beverages.

So how can your restaurant capitalize on the cold brew craze? Let’s first talk about how cold brew rose to popularity and what it actually is.

Where did cold brew coffee come from?

Starbucks Cold Brew Bottle

Cold brew may seem it’s around every corner cafe at this point but its origin story dates back to 16th century China. Its latest surge in popularity has been largely tied to Starbucks adding a cold-brew option to select stores in 2015. Cold brew is also commonly found in transportable containers, right next to cash registers, to accommodate the busy customer that will never have to worry about their coffee going cold. This combination of being on a mass-retailer’s menu and the simpleness of grab and go containers make cold brew coffee a widespread, buzzing success for coffee fans.

How is cold brew coffee made?

Cold Brew Coffee with Cream

Cold brew coffee is like the younger, cooler (no pun intended) sister of iced coffee. It has a smoother taste, lower levels of acidity, and often more caffeine in it. But, the cold brew process is a longer one than that of iced, or even hot, coffee. To get the flavorful benefits of a good cold brew, you have to give it a little time…

Cold brew is made by steeping coarse ground coffee in room temperature water (not hot) for up to 24 hours. Afterwards, the grounds are filtered out, leaving a uniform consistency to the liquid. Rather than relying on heat, it’s the steeping time that brings out the “coffee’s oils, sugars, and caffeine”.

There are a lot of cold brew recipes out there that use plastic bags and other non-food-safe options that are more DIY than your health inspector will probably prefer. For a restaurant, bakery, or coffee shop, you’ll definitely want to opt for a stainless steel system to keep things as sanitary as possible. Depending on the gallon capacity you’re interested in, standard cold brew systems can run anywhere from $200 to $700.

How you can try it in your restaurant:

Cold Brew Coffee in a Glass

As great as cold brew is, we don’t recommend throwing your hot coffee pot out on the curb. There is definitely an audience for both of these preparation methods. You don’t want to completely isolate someone’s coffee preference, but it’s great to give them options, you may have more coffee fans than you think.

Cold brew coffee makes the most sense in restaurants that serve breakfast or lunch fare over dinner-only eateries. Due to its higher than normal caffeine content, diners probably won’t be turning to this beverage as their post-dinner café unless they’re planning an all-nighter.

As we mentioned above, making cold brew is a lengthy process so unless you’re steeping grounds the whole time your doors are open, you may run out until your next batch is ready to go. If you plan on trying this trend, you’ll have to figure out how much you’ll need based on the day and its popularity, like any other food item. And if you find that your customers are really loving the buzz of cold brew, consider installing a cold brew tap system that can keep larger batches ready to go and very accessible for your staff!

Are you ready to give cold brew a chance in your restaurant? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook what you think of this buzz!

5 Furniture Hacks That Will Help Your Restaurant Run More Smoothly

Furniture is essential to any restaurant, but did you know you could actually use it to your advantage? The right furniture can help keep your restaurant operations running fluidly.

Customers are expecting quicker service than ever and restaurants are on the clock to deliver. Time is of the essence and speed is the pièces de résistance to make it happen. If your restaurant doesn’t have the capital to jump to the artificial intelligence of Jetson-like robots….that’s super normal.

Poor time management can snap a business model in half but by choosing the correct restaurant furnishings, you can help your staff run as efficiently as possible. We’ve narrowed down five furniture hacks that will keep your operation effective for your employees and bottom line profitable!

This furniture will streamline your hostesses and waitstaff processes, cut down cleaning times without skimping, and use your square footage effectively.  

Add a POS Station

Hostess Station in Urban Distressed Wood

Eliminate employees not being able to find pens, crayons, napkins, and even wait-time buzzers by having it all in one space: a point of sale station! Having a designated space for these things to reside can help cut out frantic scrambling for these easy to misplace items.

Even better, you can customize your POS station to fit your restaurant’s processes. Need somewhere to put rolled silverware so it’s at the ready? Opt for some wider shelves that can fit baskets the silverware can be tucked away in. Do you need to have the space to stack trays and menu? Try cabinet doors that shut and can hide away stored items.

By organizing these items, at an arm’s length away, your hostesses and wait staff can be ready for whatever the dinner rush throws at them.

Use Crumb Strips in Your Booth Section

Booths with a Crumb Strip

Vinyl color, height, and single vs. double are just a few of the factors that run through restaurant owners heads’ when they purchase commercial booths. But one important factor that is definitely not at the top of their list to consider when buying a booth is having a crumb strip.

A crumb strip in your booths will make your wait staff and bussers’ cleaning routine so much easier. This narrow strip of space between the back and seat cushions of the booth let them really get in there with a rag and, much like its name, get the crumbs out! Not only does the crumb strip make it simpler to get in between the table and booth vinyl, it can also increase the likelihood it won’t be left by your staff because it was too hard to reach. Which isn’t good for anyone… who wants to seat on a crumby booth?

Lower Wait Times with Indoor/Outdoor Furniture Seating

Distressed Viktor Chairs in Kelly Red

Sometimes it feels like the dinner crowd just won’t stop pouring in! As a restaurant owner, this is a great problem to have but it does present an issue for space. If the weather is nice, you’ll want to maximize your patio space. But that could mean prepping furniture you haven’t use in awhile, shaking off the cobwebs, and hoping the dead leaves from last fall have evaporated off your patio.

Why not invest in versatile seating that can pull double duty in both seating charts? These pieces of furniture are typically metal that are specially finished for indoor or outdoor use. Having this kind of seating on hand can be helpful to keep wait times lower, as well as increasing the amount of customers your staff can serve. Lower wait times, happier customers, bigger tips, just from having seating that can go anywhere!

Clean Up Your Outdoor Space in a Snap

Whether you’re just breaking out your restaurant’s patio furniture or you’re putting it away for the end of the season, cleaning it up is a great way to protect your investment and adding to your curb appeal. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could pressure-wash the outdoor space AND your furniture at the same time?

Cue poly lumber furniture!

This eco-friendly substance is a great alternative to wood with its non-porous makeup, which means it won’t retain moisture! Your staff can wipe down (or pressure-wash) poly lumber furniture without worrying about mildew, fungi, or any other growing mold. Poly lumber has many benefits for outdoor use, making it a simple solution for hard-to-take-of furniture.

Accommodate Guests (and Your Staff)

Communal Table in a Restaurant

Larger parties can be a struggle for your restaurant to accommodate, especially if your go-to defense is pushing together smaller table tops. It can be a pain for your wait staff to be constantly constructing and deconstructing the same space over and over, depending on who walks through the door.

By having a communal table or two that you can seat large parties, you can avoid losing your small tables by having to push them together. This way your staff can keep a balance between the larger parties and smaller tables, preventing them from becoming too overwhelmed.

We’re not saying you need to stand there with a stopwatch and record your employees’ every move, but it’s important to consider the success rate of how your staff’s current performance and what you should do to help. Even when your staff is on their game and working their hardest, there may be some areas that you can help make them more efficient in their jobs, just by changing your furniture.

Top Mistakes Restaurant Owners Make in Their First Year and How to Avoid Them

Restaurant Communal Table with Dinner

We’ve all heard that terrifying statistic — 90% of new restaurants fail within the first year. Fortunately for both owners and people who like to go out to eat, this “fact” is completely untrue. According to research by Dr. H.G. Parsa of Ohio State University, first-year restaurant failure rates are closer to a much less shocking 26%. (The 90% myth, by the way, is so prevalent that it was even cited in an American Express commercial in the early 2000s. AmEx was never able to substantiate their claim.)

Still, that means that one out of four new restaurants isn’t going to survive to its first anniversary. Sometimes, these closures are beyond the owners’ control. An economic downturn, staffing issues, infrastructure problems, or new government policies can all lead to failures, despite the best efforts of management.

But there are certain mistakes that restaurant owners often make when they first get started that can be major factors in the success or failure of their restaurants. Here are some common mistakes that restaurant owners make in their first year of business, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1 — Not appreciating the necessary time commitment

The restaurant industry is hard, both physically and mentally. It requires long hours, intense attention to detail, and a mastery of a whole slew of different disciplines from managing people to sales forecasting to marketing to cooking to sanitation…

And because money is always tight in the restaurant business, all of this has to be organized and executed by an incredibly small management team. The result is long hours away from home, family, and hobbies. In Dr. Parsa’s study, he notes that most failed restaurateurs cited family sacrifice as at least part of the reason that their restaurants shuttered.

Owning a restaurant will always be hard work. But one step you can take to try to balance your work with your home life is to delegate and outsource where you can.

The key to delegating effectively:

  • Communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Provide a clear vision of success.

For example, maybe you decide to hand off social media management to a staff member or freelancer. Make sure that person knows how many posts you want per week and the type of content you like on your feed. Food photos? Videos of guests having a good time? Bartenders making drinks? Behind-the-scenes footage of the kitchen? Promotions for upcoming events? Clear content guidelines will help to automate the process and prevent frustration down the line.

Then, give the delegate a metric that is easy to track. Maybe you want to grow your social media following by 10% per month, or maybe you want a certain number of people to engage with your posts on a weekly basis. Aim for straightforward, concrete goals so the whole team will know exactly what success looks like.

Mistake #2 — Not compensating for inexperience

Opening a restaurant sounds like fun. And it can be! But there’s a reason why industry greats like Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay worked in restaurants for nearly 15 years before opening their own. There is a ton to learn before you’re ready to be the boss.

Training and managing a small army of prep cooks, chefs, servers, bartenders, and hosts is difficult enough. Add in marketing, controlling food and labor costs, licensing and permitting, facilities management, special events, and more, and it’s enough to make your head spin if you haven’t risen through the restaurant ranks.

That doesn’t mean that every restaurant with an inexperienced owner is doomed to fail. But you’ll need to hire the best general manager or director of operations that you can afford. Ten or twenty years of restaurant management experience will come at a cost, but it will be worth to have a pro on your team.

Mistake #3 — Lack of clear concept

Your concept is not just your cuisine. Your concept is what makes you unique. Why should people go to your pizza joint, instead of the pizza joint down the street? What special purpose does your restaurant serve?

Maybe you are an upscale date spot located in a renovated 1960s gas station serving ultra-thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas with high-end toppings like foie gras and shaved white truffle.

Now compare that to Chuck E. Cheese — a family-friendly pizza place with lots of games and entertainment for kids. Both serve the same basic cuisine, but their concepts are radically different.

So what is it, beyond just your type of food, that makes you special? You’ll never be all things to all people, so dig in and focus on who you’re trying to attract, and for what occasions. You want to position your restaurant as the “go-to” place for something specific — an occasion, an atmosphere, a certain theme. What do you do better than anyone else?

A clear concept will serve as a guide as you navigate choices down the line. Menu changes, community events, and promotions will all be easier to approve or deny when you have a clearly defined concept.

Mistake #4 — Allowing subpar food to persist

Your menu was carefully curated, each recipe lovingly tested and presented by your executive chef. You tried each dish, gave it your seal of approval, and are now confident in the knowledge that you can be proud of your food.

But over time, corners get cut. Maybe the line cooks are sandbagging steaks to get through the rush more easily, resulting in dried-out sirloins. Maybe the prep cooks are only letting the soup simmer for 15 minutes instead of the required 45 minutes, so the flavor isn’t as rich.

These time-saving tweaks aren’t malicious on the part of your staff, but they can drastically reduce the quality of the food. And customers will notice.

Make it a habit to eat in your restaurant regularly — but discreetly. Ask a manager to ring in food for you, but make sure they don’t tell the kitchen staff that it’s for the boss. That way, you’ll get an accurate taste of what your restaurant is serving to your guests, and you’ll be able to address any deviations from the original dish.

Mistake #5 — Not keeping track of permits

When you were first opening your restaurant, you had to get a variety of permits and licenses from all sorts of local and county departments like the health, fire, and building departments, state liquor authority, comptroller, and more.

Right around your 1-year mark, many of those permits will need to be renewed. And they’ll probably have to be renewed annually for as long as your restaurant is operating. Failure to stay on top of this tedious (but vital) administrative work can result in fines or could even get you shut down.

Make absolutely sure that you are tracking all permit and license expiration dates!

One free method is to create a special Google or Outlook calendar just for permits, and schedule all expiration dates with reminders 60 and 30 days out. When you get your 60-day reminder, you can file the proper paperwork and schedule any necessary inspections to keep your restaurant in compliance. At the 30-day mark, double check that everything has been received by the corresponding city or county department.

Another option is to use software like Renewal Tracker to manage renewal dates, reminders, costs, and supporting documentation all in one place.

And make sure all managers know where the permits are posted in the restaurant so they’re easy to find if you’re not around.

Mistake #6 — Not planning for the worst

When you created your business plan, you made assumptions (aka guesses) about expected sales and revenue. You did your research and tried to be pragmatic, but you still had no real way of knowing what those numbers would be.


Once you open your doors, you’ll find out how accurate your guesses were. It may take time — months, or even years — for your restaurant to perform the way that you hoped.

Don’t forget that you have to cover food, labor, rent, utilities, taxes, and loan payments, no matter how much money you’re bringing in. It some time to build a devoted customer base, so make sure to reserve some of your startup capital. It’s vital to have some cash on hand if things get off to a slow start.

Keep an eye on your cash reserves, and always try to keep in mind how many months you could continue to operate if you don’t see an improvement in sales. This will help you to know when you need to start looking for outside capital. Make sure you come up with a strategy well in advance of having to choose between making payroll and paying the electric bill. Remember, the best time to look for cash is when you don’t need it.

The restaurant business can be fun and rewarding, but it’s still a business. Hiring a great team, creating the best possible product, and keeping a cautious eye on your income and expenses can all help to ensure that your first year isn’t also your last.

How to Handle Difficult Restaurant Employees

How to Handle Difficult Restaurant Employees - Waiter in a Restaurant

We all have to deal with difficult employees in the restaurant industry. Let’s take a look at how we can manage negative behavior and create a positive work environment for everyone.

Look, the restaurant business is often challenging and the pressure to perform can go from zero to sixty in 4.6 seconds. We count on our staff to perform and improvise solutions at the drop of a hat. The importance of being on time, showing up with a winning attitude, and being able focus on tasks is a huge factor in determining the success of a shift. Yet — some people can’t seem to get it together. Always late; creates negative energy; section falling apart. Often times that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When tempers flare, frustrations mount and check/tip averages drop — the warm fuzzy feeling at staff meal have all but disappeared.

So, how do we deal with a problem employee? Is it possible to create a workplace that is positive, productive, and fun? Here are some tips and strategies for handling employees that perform poorly:

Use positive language You learn a lot about a person by observing their body language. Do they seem frustrated? Indifferent? Hostile? Many times we can gauge a person’s mood by watching how they enter the door and begin their shift. Take a moment to say hi. Ask about their day or weekend. You’d be surprised how this ‘small’ gesture can have a calming effect if they seem stressed or frazzled. You start off on a good note and help set the tone for the shift. On the flip side, it can cheer someone up if they seem depressed, fatigued, or low on energy. Restaurants are often tight-knit families. Take a minute or two out of your busy day to pass on a kind word. Show a genuine interest in their world outside of work. Sometimes the negative behavior displayed at work is carried over from the world outside those walls. The same approach can work when they are in the weeds and got triple sat on a busy Friday night. Keep a calm, friendly tone. Keep it light. Choose your words with care and make them count. You will be surprised at the amount of confidence you can build in your server/busser/bartender with a simple, “you got this but I’m here to jump in if you need anything.”

Fair, firm, and understanding Many people have poor time management skills. They make every attempt to show up on time, but — stuff happens. Traffic really does suck. The babysitter really is late… all the time. A raccoon really did eat their radiator belt (one allowance only for this excuse). It’s a hectic world. Be compassionate. But also let them know that being on time or keeping a neat station is important. Help them to understand: this is a team effort and an orchestrated dance. You will be surprised to find out how many people simply don’t understand the relevance of being prompt and punctual. Break it down for them in simple, easy terms. When you let an employee or coworker know that a certain action is valuable to the entire effort, they feel important. Everyone likes to feel important.

Be proactive Does your employee lack motivation? Find out what sparks their interest. Is it music? Fashion? Movies? When you establish a connection with hard to handle employees you build trust. We all understand the importance of trust and how it can lead to an overall improvement in attitude, performance, and workplace cohesiveness. Observe the behavior or habits that need to be corrected and address them early on — before they become a larger problem. Help them to discover better alternatives by walking through ‘mock scenarios’ during pre-shift. It’s possible that their section is always a disaster because no one has ever taught them how to work smarter by consolidating steps. Perhaps previous jobs did not emphasize orderliness and cleanliness. We can’t assume that previous employers have given everyone on your team the small nuggets of wisdom that make tasks easier and build reliable skill sets. You have to be that person. This is what distinguishes a leader from a manager.

Lead by example Let your team see that you care: you will never ask them to perform a task that you wouldn’t do yourself. When they see that you care deeply about the success of the business — they will adopt your habits. Difficult team members notice when you hop behind the bar, run orders, bus and reset tables when the team is in the weeds. And they will reciprocate. A team that feels you are involved with them throughout the shift will be more likely to step up their game. They become empowered and make fewer mistakes . When morale is high, your team members will go the extra mile to meet your vision. Teams that works together and observe strong leadership traits will be able to hold it together during the rough patches — the real nitty-gritty. They understand your expectations and adopt them as their own. They encourage coworkers that are not performing to do better.

The compliment sandwich We all know how delicious this sandwich can be if it’s served at the right temperature. Served cold — not so tasty. Throwing a couple of half-assed compliments on a plate and pouring some criticism gravy over the entire dish is not an effective management technique. It leaves a struggling employee confused and less receptive to feedback. The goal is to take negative behavior/habits and turn them into positive ones. Be sincere and genuine in your compliments — restaurant workers can spot b.s. a mile away. Suggest ways to fix the problem; ask for suggestions; listen to feedback and absorb their responses. As a manager and leader your tone should say, “I will try my hardest to help you.” Criticism is easy to dish out. Often vague, harsh and counterproductive — the result is rarely pleasant or informative. An effective leader will seek a favorable outcome and help to carry out effective solutions. Identify the specific actions you would like to change and give a clear and insightful path to meet those goals.

Employees are your best resource Your strongest assets are waiting to be cultivated. A healthy and positive work environment creates a sense of purpose and translates to an increase in sales, productivity, and happiness.

How to Handle Difficult Restaurant Employees - Pinterest Graphic

Engaging “Generation Y” to Grow Your Restaurant

Generation Y (aka millennials) are expected to outnumber baby boomers sometime this year making them the largest generation in the country. At 73 million strong, it’s vital to know how to reach these 22- to 37-year-olds.

Marketing to millennials should look more like engaging with your friends than traditional advertising. They want entertaining content, fun experiences, and authentic interactions with real people. They’re suspicious of marketing, and if it feels too much like a sales pitch, they won’t respond to it. But there are still ways to reach them! Read on for some helpful tips.

Get Social

You know that “kids these days” are always on their smartphones. But did you know that 95% of Generation Y follows at least one brand on social media? Every additional follower on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is one more person that you can market to directly — without spending a dime.

Luckily for the restaurant industry, food-related content is incredibly popular across social media. High-quality photo and video content are what the people want! So don’t let them down. A DSLR camera is a great tool, but a newer smartphone camera can still do the trick. It never hurts to have some photo editing skills as well to make the colors really pop.

While food content is a great start, also think beyond the plate. Go behind-the-scenes and introduce your followers to the people behind the product. Take a short video of the chef talking about some of his favorite ingredients, or making one of his signature dishes. Introduce your fans to one of your bartenders. Post a photo from your last staff party. Remember, you’re treating your followers like friends. They need to know who you are if they’re going to feel personally connected to your brand.

Engage!

Keep in mind that social media is a platform for two-way communication. It’s not enough to just post a killer video and trust that the rest will happen on its own. Make sure to engage with the people who are reacting to your content. Respond to comments, thank new followers, and follow them back. And when they post their own photos from their time at your establishment, make sure to like and comment.

And don’t forget to check out the analytics! All social media platforms have reports that business pages can access. You’ll be able to learn about activity on your feed, how each post is performing, and gain insight into your audience — who they are, and when they are active on social media. This information will help you determine what content is getting results so you can tailor your posts accordingly.

If this all sounds like a lot of work — it can be. But there are ways to make it easier. Apps like Buffer and Hootsuite let you schedule all of your social media content — pictures, copy, and hashtags — in advance. Then, the software will post to your social accounts for you based on the schedule you set.

You can plan out the whole week’s worth of content at once. Using scheduling software will ensure that social media isn’t forgotten in the hustle and bustle of running your restaurant. Just make sure that you’re checking in and interacting with your followers daily.

Remember — consistency is key. It takes time to build an online community, but with perseverance, you’ll see those follow numbers start to increase.

#experiences

More good news for the restaurant industry — millennials prefer experiences to goods. In fact, all generations are shifting away from buying “stuff” and towards participation in events.

Restaurants already have a leg up, since dining out is an easily accessible experience for many. But let’s go beyond anniversary dinners and birthday parties, shall we? How can you bring the capital e “Experience” to your restaurant and customers?

Bring in a guest chef for a special tasting. Host a beer dinner with a local brewery. Teach a cooking class, culminating in a tasty meal and a glass of wine. Have a seasonal farm-to-table dinner. The key is for it to be unique and one-time-only. You want to throw an event that will create valuable memories — and great pictures for the participants’ social media feeds.

When the time comes to get the word out about your event, your social channels will be invaluable. Make sure to do regular posts leading up to the big day.

But millennials love recommendations from people they trust. So try going a step further by enlisting the help of local micro-influencers — bloggers and social media personalities with follows from 10,000 up to 100,000 people. Find out who your local food bloggers and event curators are, and see if they’d be willing to do a post about your event.

There may be a cost associated with their post, or you may be able to exchange the post for free tickets to the event. But since these influencers have devoted fans who want to know what’s going on around town, it may be worth the cost to get their shout out.

Finally, try to get outside the four walls of your restaurant. Food festivals are an incredibly popular experience with Generation Y. They attract a huge amount of social media engagement, and they get your name and your food in front of people who may be outside your normal demographic. They can be challenging logistically, but the payoff for a successful festival can be well worth it.

Miserly Millennials

Many millennials graduated from college just as the economy was taking a huge downturn. Their careers were stalled right out of the gate, and they’re still feeling the effects over 10 years later. Add student loan debt to the tune of $1.3 trillion, and it’s no wonder Gen Y is incredibly cost-conscious.

This doesn’t mean that you have to destroy your cost of goods in order to keep prices low enough to attract these penny pinchers. But consider offerings that could attract a group that may normally not be able to afford your restaurant.

For example, a very high-end sushi restaurant offers happy hour from 5:00 to 6:30 pm on weekdays. They provide smaller portions of select menu items at reduced prices; $18 appetizers are served as small plates on the happy hour menu for only $9. This deal is routinely included in lists of the best happy hours in town.

These reduced prices give the less affluent an opportunity to try high-end food at a price they can afford while keeping the restaurant’s cost of goods under control. And remember, today’s entry-level marketing assistant is tomorrow’s VP of Marketing — with a lot more disposable income.

Cooking for a Cause

Many millennials participate in causes and social activism regularly. They sign petitions, make donations, and vote with their dollars by boycotting brands that they feel have transgressed. They want to do good.

Give them the opportunity to give back while having fun. Charity events build brand goodwill while also supporting a cause.

Get customers involved by:

  • Hosting a toy or food drive. Offer a small discount off their meal as thanks for their donation.
  • Donating a percentage of sales to a cause that’s important to you.
  • Raffling off a gift basket, prize, or a dinner for two to your restaurant. Sell tickets to customers, and donate the proceeds to a charity.

Local charities are a good choice, as they may be more transparent than huge national organizations. Plus, many people like the idea of keeping their donations in their own communities. Before selecting a charity, do some research on CharityWatch.org to verify their credentials. You can also see how much of their money goes to aid vs. administration.

Let Them Participate

Millennials like to be active participants with the brands they support. They expect companies to engage with them, ask their opinions, and respond to their feedback. So actively encourage that interaction, and watch engagement increase.

Debating between two new menu items? Let your customers vote on it. Adding a cocktail to the menu? Host a naming contest on social media, and give a prize to the winner. Ask people to share the photos they’ve taken at your restaurant, and send a gift card to whoever took your favorite.

Encouraging your followers to get involved will show that you value your customer’s input and build a deeper connection between them and your brand.

They’re Not Getting Any Younger…

With the oldest millennials approaching their late-30s, many of them are now parents. In fact, 40% of millennials have kids. So being kid-friendly can be an important selling point when they’re considering where to go out to eat. Clean high chairs, plastic cups with straws, and a kids menu will all help parents feel comfortable bringing the kiddos.

Include pictures of families and kids on your social media (with the parent’s permission, of course!) to show your followers that their little ones are not only allowed but welcome.

And with both parents sharing childcare duties more evenly than ever before, make sure there is a changing station in every restroom!
At the end of the day, marketing to Generation Y is really about building relationships. Share what excites you, ask them what they think, and give a little back. If you treat your Generation Y customers as pals instead of prospects, you’ll be well on your way to securing a group of loyal and profitable patrons.

Engaging Gen Y

Spring Into a New Season with New Furniture

The spring season means new life, new weather, and even new savings!

We’re making room in our warehouse before our busy season, which means you have a plethora of great deals for furnishing your indoor dining area and your outdoor patio. From vintage-looking bucket bar stools to tough steel frames, our sale section can help you get a great start on your restaurant’s new design or upgrade.

But you’re going to want to hop to it! The spring sale is ending Tuesday April 30th and each item is only available in limited quantities, so if we sell out of a style, we may not be getting it back in stock. Let’s look at what deals you’ll find on the sale page…

Indoor Commercial Furniture:

Add industrial style to your restaurant with the Simon Collection! The Simon’s steel frame comes in a variety of seating styles and metal finishes to accomplish the manufacturing look.

  • Simon Bar Stool in Rust

If you’re looking for something a bit more colorful, try the Distressed Simon Collection. The Distressed Simon’s have the same frame as the regular Simon Collection, but have unique distressed markings that make each chair or bar stool a little different.

A consistently popular silhouette, Viktor and Distressed Viktor chairs and bar stools are perfect for any tap house, eatery, or café. The Viktor Collection features an oversized seat and is available in more neutral finishes to add a little metallic flair to any restaurant atmosphere.


  • Viktor Bar Stool in Rust

Looking for furniture on sale, versatile, and stylish? The Distressed Viktor Collection is the right choice for you! This style has the same silhouette as the traditional Viktor but comes in six distressed color finishes that brighten up any space. Distressed Viktor bar stools and chairs can be used inside your restaurant or out at your patio bar, it’s got you covered!

  • Distressed Viktor Bar Stool in Distressed Kelly Blue

Sit your guests in luxurious comfort (for less) with the 950 Bucket Bar Stool! This beautiful bucket style features tufted button detailing on the back and a comfortable waterfall seat design. It comes in three different vinyl colors and two base styles.

Outdoor Commercial Furniture:

Go for mid-century modern look on your patio with the steel elegance of the Luca Collection. With chairs, bar stool, and table top choices, the Luca Collection is black powder coated You’ll want to look at this new collection’s seating and table options; your patio and budget will thank you!

Like the look of the steel Luca frame? Spice it up with 20+ poly lumber colors to choose from! This bar stool and chairs are right on trend with their squared off back design and tapered legs. The poly slats add a whole lot of personality to the furniture with their bright, neutral, or deep colors. Customize your patio furniture and snag a sale? Sounds like a great deal!

Find exactly the furniture you need for your restaurant or bar’s outdoor space with the Caribbean Collection! This collection uses a durable and stylish combination of aluminum and poly lumber. And with the Caribbean bar stools, chairs, and table tops, you really get to customize your furniture. Choose from a black or silver powder coat on the frame AND choose what poly lumber you want to incorporate. Go with your logo’s colors or ones that match your patio, the choice is in your hands (and on sale)!

Helping customers furnish or upgrade their restaurants is always a great feeling, even more so when their getting an extra fantastic deal on their indoor chairs or outdoor table tops. If you have any questions on availability or selection, please call our customer care team at 800-986-5352.

East Coast Chair & Barstool Visits the Windy City

We are well into trade show season here at East Coast Chair & Barstool and we are excited to be heading to Chicago next! Trade shows allow us the opportunity to make connections with customers and feature some of our newest products. So, we are packing our bags and heading to McCormick Place once again.

In case you haven’t heard, the National Restaurant Association Show has reached their centennial year! This event is one of the biggest trade shows in the restaurant and hospitality industry. It is a great way to explore and learn everything that is happening in the industry. Discover innovations in equipment and supplies, to food technology, and even the latest furniture trends. In our experience, it is best to leave yourself at least two days to delve into all the exhibits.

This year the show will be featuring a panel discussion on the future of dining, moderated by Dawn Sweeney, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Attendees can expect to come away with insight into trends and potential industry-altering changes. As a session with Allison Page, Chief Product Officer and Con-Founder of SevenRooms, and Christopher Thomas-Moore on Vice President of Global eCommerce & Digital Marketing for Domino’s Pizza on the everything from robotics and automation of technologies to ease operations in back-of-house.

We are excited to be exhibiting our brand new outdoor deep seating option, The Monaco Collection of outdoor deep seating, several new restaurant booth designs, and modern designed Emory Chair.
If you are around the Chicago area, make sure to come out May 18th-21st for the NRA show and stop by booth #6045. We’d love to meet you and discuss what we can do for your restaurant.

Introducing the Leesburg Booth

Creating the right atmosphere for your restaurant or bar is no easy task. From combining ingredients together to make fantastic meals to painting the walls in your brand’s color, you take pride in curating the elements your guests will experience as soon as they set foot into your restaurant. And your furniture should be no different!

Create an atmosphere that your customers will never forget by seating them in the handcrafted Leesburg booth.

No matter if you are furnishing a brewery, taproom, or rustic eatery, the Leesburg booth is constructed to invoke feelings of beauty and strength. This booth’s metal frame is made from clear coated steel that showcases welding marks. The frame fits itself nicely into the industrial trend with its “bare bones” aesthetic.

Playing from its rustic charm, the Leesburg booth’s metal frame is finished with your choice of distressed wood for the seat and back of the booth. Choose from reclaimed wood (salvaged barn wood available in Natural, Antique Black, or Whitewash finishes), urban distressed wood (new wood distressed to look old available in Provincial, Dark Walnut, and Ebony finishes), and rustic pine wood (available in Distressed Bourbon finish) options to complete the right booth for your restaurant.

Each type of wood is distressed to create texture and a uniqueness that can’t be replicated from booth to booth.

The Leesburg can be made as single and double booth layouts, which have customizable lengths, so you can outfit your restaurant’s needs accordingly. Regardless of what length you order, the Leesburg booth is 48” in height to accommodate traditional restaurant seating arrangements.

Find out more about the Leesburg booth on its single and double listings. You can also check out our other custom restaurant booths and find the right style for your business.